New Order talk their current tour during SXSW keynote: “It’s like having a party and the drug is music”

The "ultimate" Manchester band discussed how music and mental health intersect and their involvement with new festival Beyond The Music

Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris, and Gillian Gilbert of New Order spoke today (March 15) at this year’s SXSW and discussed becoming musicians, the evolution of their sound and growing up in Manchester.

The trio were keynote speakers at the annual tech and marketing festival, in conversation with Will Hodgkinson, rock and pop critic of The Times. Andy Burnham, Mayor of Manchester, introduced the keynote, calling New Order “the ultimate Manchester band” before adding that it was “a big statement”.

The band kicked off their chat by discussing how they weren’t necessarily “anti-musicians” but they were “anti-success”, with Sumner pointing to growing up working class before “punk came along” giving him the chance to express himself, without being a virtuoso. “I didn’t want to be famous, I didn’t care about that at all. But the big thing was, to travel around the world having fun after being suppressed and told ‘you’re no good’. Getting public recognition and being told you [actually] are good, those were the reasons.”


Morris also described his trajectory to becoming a musician, joking that he couldn’t play an instrument but that “there was a rumour in rock and roll that the worst guitarist becomes the drummer.”

They also talked about the tragedy of Ian Curtis’ death, with Gilbert noting that some fans were disappointed that they brought a “girl” on to replace him, while also recounting the excitement of touring during those days. “We were all depressed, taking solace in drugs,” Sumner added, noting that they started to dive into new technology. “I made a little sequence and synthesizer and we wired them together. That was the start of a new revolution in music really.”

The band also discussed longevity and their current tour in the United States, noting that what first got them notoriety was making the “right music at the right time”. They also said that now when they play “it’s like having a party and the drug is music.”

The band also talked about The Killers taking their name from the music video for “Crystal” noting that they met Brandon Flowers at the NME awards, and thought they were “a great band”.

Sumner also noted how difficult it is for British musicians to be successful now thanks to streaming and young artists running into issues being able to travel abroad. The band shared plans to find a way, through their role as artist ambassadors of a new festival to create more opportunities for up-and-coming Manchester bands. The new festival, which was announced during SXSW, Beyond The Music and will take place this October.


The band also performed earlier in the week (March 13) as part of Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater. Earlier this month, the band celebrated 40 years of ‘Blue Monday’ with a range of special merchandise.

Meanwhile, Primavera Sound Festival announced New Order as its final headliner for its 2023 line-up. The 2023 instalment of the festival, which will take place in both Barcelona and Madrid, will see the Manchester legends perform at the former’s Parc del Fòrum on June 1 and at the and at the latter’s Ciudad del Rock in Arganda del Rey on June 8. You can find additional information here.

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